Hi Richard, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? On top of the world, thank you.
How did you fall in love with music? I’ve always loved music but writing songs came completely out of the blue literally on the famous pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (I was driving as a tourist, not walking) when writing one set of lyrics led to another song, and another and the pen didn’t stop. Within a few months I was in the recording studio with a great group of musicians and it hasn’t stopped since. I’d been tinkling on the piano all my life and singing in a jazz choir for almost ten years at that point but getting it all together suddenly happened. Pretty special.
How was the transition from Economy to music? Happily very smooth. I was ready for a new challenge and it is always great if when you stop doing one thing you can move to another. Spending my life helping people anticipate the future has exposed me to lots of different worlds which helps in writing about experiences outside one’s own personal environment.
How did your interest for Country music start? It seems to me that every society has its own forms of popular music, whether we call it country, folk, blues: music which loves rhythms, entertaining, being thoughtful about personal things as well as what is going on in the wider world. Country music to me is one the many great forms of “people music” – perhaps a better term than popular music.
What are your musical influences? Most definitely Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Loudon Wainwright III and it’s been wonderful to follow them down the years. More recently I’ve enjoyed Tom Waits and his inventiveness. My father taught me to play the piano by ear and I loved listening to his music hall and classical 78s.
Let´s talk about your album, I Know A Little Place. Can you talk to us more about the recording and writing process? All my songs start with the lyrics, which usually kick off as a phrase or a thought which then develops itself. I rarely know where the song is going, to begin with. The ones that make it are those that find their own way home. I sing them straight away into a recorder, or with the piano as well if I happen to be with a piano handy. Then I get together with guitarist Bruce Knapp and we start to develop ideas for the arrangement, before we all get into the studio, play around ideas and then record. Richard Sadler (bassist) and Tony Shepherd (drums) shape the pulse, Matt Knapp, producer, drives us on and even might critique my lyrics, and then the final sparkle comes from Callie Howard and Christine Axelle whenever they add their vocals to mine. The tunes seem to come out of the rhythm and the mood of the lyrics.
How did you come up with the title? There is no “title track” but the phrase I know a little place comes from a line of one of the songs, Silvery moon. The title also probably echoed the fact that many of the songs we were working on for this album mentioned a place – but none of them made it to the album! But the title survived.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics? Just like Bob Dylan your songs always deal with some of the issues the society is facing these days. They must all come from things I’ve experienced, read about, dreamed about, worried about. The excesses of consumerism (Choice) is a big issue. Climate change is a big issue (Cloud on the horizon). I wrote Heroes or zeroes, about how great leaders may fail, before we had a series of dictators (often once seen as liberators) falling. I hope sometimes a song with a few words can be as powerful as writing a book, to get a message across. A song doesn’t take so long to write either – or listen to!Inspiration inspiration was literally written in a rare (I’m happy to say) moment of writer’s block, so I start asking for inspiration inspiration….. But I don’t want to be too preachy either or take myself too seriously. Both Dylan and Cohen gave me the courage to just enjoy the words and let the listener absorb and interpret them.
Can you talk to us more about the album artwork´s concept? Jim Matthews did a great job here in capturing the light and dark moods of the album: from sunshine, to clouds on the horizon, to silvery moons in their different phases. And then emphasising the lyrics. The words are important to me and I hope to listeners too.